The House Judiciary Committee has released the transcript of the closed-door June 4 hearing with Don McGahn, the former White House counsel.
“Mr. McGahn provided the Committee with substantial new information—including firsthand accounts of President Trump’s increasingly out of control behavior, and insight into concerns that the former President’s conduct could expose both Trump and McGahn to criminal liability,” said committee chair Jerry Nadler in a release. “Mr. McGahn also confirmed that President Trump lied when he denied the accuracy of the Mueller report, and admitted that he was the source for a Washington Post report that confirmed Trump’s direction to McGahn to remove the Special Counsel.”
House lawyers began the questioning with a focus on an episode where Trump learned that Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel. Trump, the Mueller report revealed, said at the meeting “I’m fucked,” and demanded that Jeff Sessions resign from his position as attorney general.
After hemming and hawing from McGahn, in which he asked to read from the report and said that his recollection was fuzzy, the former White House counsel slipped into marveling at the episode, telling the House investigators that it was “a rather historic potential moment here, where the President is having a showdown with his Attorney General.”
“That doesn’t happen every day,” McGahn said. “They don’t teach you this in law school.”
House lawyers were constrained by an agreement they reached to secure McGahn’s testimony, after spending two years in court fighting to enforce a congressional subpoena. That agreement restricted McGahn’s testimony to events covered in the Mueller report.
That being said, McGahn said at one point that while counsel he was trying to avoid causing a “chain reaction that would cause this to spiral out of control in a way that wasn’t in the best interests . . . of my client, which was the President.”
In that case, McGahn was referring to a June 2017 call from Trump in which the former president directed the White House counsel to call Rod Rosenstein and have him raise the issue of Mueller supposedly being conflicted out of acting as special counsel.
“I didn’t want to continue having what had been the same conversation on more than one occasion on something that, as counsel, I wasn’t really comfortable doing, raising some kind of personal or business conflict,” McGahn said. The “chain reaction” in that case would have been Rosenstien resigning, McGahn said, adding that it could have been a repeat of the Nixon-era Saturday Night Massacre.
“It was time to hit the brakes and not make a phone call to Rod to raise this issue that the President had continued to raise with me,” he added.
McGahn testified that he was concerned that firing Mueller might constitute obstruction of justice, and that both he and the President were worried about their own liability. He also affirmed that Trump had asked him to put out the false statement that Trump had never asked him to have Rosenstein remove Mueller, knowing that it could expose him to criminal prosecution.
Calling Rosenstein and asking him to remove Mueller, McGahn testified, could have turned him from a witness in the already-ongoing Mueller probe into “an appearance that somehow I was meddling in an investigation.”
At one point, McGahn said he was “disappointed” to see Trump go on TV in June of 2019 and say that he never suggested firing Mueller.
“Well, you know, he certainly entertained the idea,” he testified. “Certainly seemed to ask a number of people about it. Certainly had a number of conversations with me about something along those lines.”
Read the transcript here: